12:01 a.m. Feb. 13, 2013|
RANCHO BERNARDO — The Wranglers’ Square Dance Club displays a motto on its website home page:
“Get off the couch,
“Turn off the TV,
“And interact with people!”
Club members have been doing just that for more than 39 years.
Founded as the Westwood Wranglers in Rancho Peñasquitos in 1973, the club soon grew to embrace members from Poway, Rancho Bernardo and neighboring communities.
On a chilly night in early January, upward of 40 people gathered in the multipurpose room at Rolling Hills Elementary School for the club’s monthly square dance class.
On the dance floor, the crowd gathered into the traditional clusters of eight people — four couples, arranged in a square — following the instructions of a caller leading them through various moves.
Veteran caller Ray Holmes talked the dancers through each move in slow motion, then had them repeat the moves to the music.
About half the people on the floor were students, said Julie van der Schalie, a Wranglers member for five years. The rest of the dancers were “angels,” the term for experienced dancers there to help the students.
“ Some of these people have been dancing 20, 30 years,” said van der Schalie, whose husband, Nick, is the club’s treasurer and webmaster.
Monthly classes run from September through May, van der Schalie said. “They’ve learned 60 different moves from September to January. They’ll have learned 120 by May.”
Clearly, square dance moves cover more than just “do sa do” and “promenade.” The list of calls on the Wranglers website lists those names, but also has lots of others, including “Flutter Wheel Family” and “Spin Chain the Gears.”
Then there’s “Pass the Ocean,” which means “pass the one in front of you,” as explained by caller Ray Holmes when he stopped the action to correct some couples who’d messed up. His voice was firm and sonorous but patient in tone, and people took their mistakes and corrections in good spirits.
“It’s complicated,” Judy van der Schalie said about the need to learn all the moves and coordinate with everyone in your square.
The combination of dancing and learning to coordinate various moves was cited by several attendees as the key to why square dancing served as mental as well as physical exercise.
“It takes you back to being a child,” said Linda Colby. “That’s what I like about it. It’s so freeing.”
She and her husband, Ken, started attending the Wrangler classes in September. Ken had at one point been paralyzed from the chest down as a result of Guillain-Barre syndrome. He had regained use of his limbs but was still limited in certain physical activities.
Nick and Judy van der Schalie are neighbors of theirs and inspired them to attend a dance to observe. “We decided we could do it,” said Linda Colby.
“It’s been good for our marriage, too, because we both enjoy it and we both have a lot of fun.”
Barbara Carnathan, a former club president, said the club has around 50 members. She also said class attendance had mushroomed since they started putting notices in local papers.
In addition to the dance classes, the Wranglers host general dances once a month. In the winter they dance at Rolling Hills Elementary, in the summer months at the gazebo in Poway Community Park. They also visit other clubs within the Palomar Square Dance Association.